SOUTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has learned that Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services is renting local hotel rooms to house children who cannot be placed in foster families.
"If they're helping these kids out, then it's good," a guest at the Hampton Inn & Suits told Channel 2's Liz Artz.
The opinions of taxpayers and guests varied greatly when they learned DFCS was using the hotels off Camp Creek Parkway in South Fulton County to house children with nowhere else to go.
"They need to be in a good place.
Like puppies and dogs, you help those guys out. This is America," said Georgia resident Adrion Augustus.
A DFCS representative told Artz the department uses hotels when it doesn't have a foster family to take a child, or when a special need
or behavioral issue makes it difficult to place the child.
"I wouldn't want to stay here if I knew that, especially with my kids here that really would be a problem to me," said hotel guest Michael Jones.
A DFCS spokeswoman told Artz children in hotels are under 24-hour supervision with a caregiver, who transports them back and forth to school.
A spokesperson said they try to use hotels no more than three days at a time. The cost for that stay runs the state on average $3,000 versus $60 for the same period with a foster family.
A room would typically include a kitchenette for cooking meals.
"That's really outrageous
. That's a lot of money," Jones said.
The manager at the Hampton Inn and Suites told Artz he gives the agency a government rate of $138 a night.
Augustus wonders if the agency couldn't find a less expensive option. One resident even suggested using closed military bases, which are already government-owned, to house the children with caregivers.
DFCS says it has a desperate need right now for more foster families and hopes legislation that passed this last session will help.
The agency also maintains it has had no safety issues housing children at hotels.